Cross-dressing, the Greeks, and the wily phallus
The dramaturgical fascination with cross-dressing which culminates in pre-revolutionary England has its roots in theatrical conventions which go back to classical Greece. In particular, the comedies of Aristophanes use the charade of gender costume—specifically the dress of women—as a wild comic device. Examples of the histrionics of cross-dressing include the Ecclesiazousae (The Women’s Assembly), Lysistrata, and, most importantly, Thesmophoriazousae (The Women Celebrating the Thesmophoria). In the first two of these plays women intrude into the public, malecontrolled arenas of Athens, namely the Agora and the Acropolis; in the third play, however, the battle of the invading sex has shifted its ground: here the issue is not so much the intrusion of women into male domains as the way in which women themselves become represented theatrically.
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